Word: Get your computer to read your document

May 13, 2016

One final checks that many editors do is to read a document aloud. But until you’re used to doing that, reading aloud to an empty room seems really weird. Reading aloud to others who don’t care about the document can be awkward. Of course, if you have a pet, you could read aloud to it, but it might want to play (dog), or ignore you (fish, reptile), or ignore you and walk off (cat), or reply (bird).

Windows comes with an in-built text to speech reader, and the easiest way to get it to read some or all of your Word document is to add the ‘Speak’ icon to your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).

Here’s how in Word 2010 – later versions should be similar:

  1. Open any Word document.
  2. Go to File > Options.
  3. Click Quick Access Toolbar on the left ([1] in the screenshot below).
  4. Click the drop-down arrow next to Popular Commands [2], then select All Commands [3].QAT_speech01
  5. Type the letter ‘s’ to go to the commands starting with ‘s’, then scroll to Speak and select it [4].
  6. Click Add [5] to add it to your QAT.
  7. Click OK to close the Options window. The Speak icon (a speech bubble) should now be on your QAT.
  8. To test that it works, make sure your headphones or speakers are connected and on.
  9. Select any of the text in your Word document, then click the Speak icon. (To hear the entire document, select it all — Ctrl+A).
  10. To stop, click the Speak icon again.

NOTE: I tested this on my Windows 7 64-bit computer, and there’s only one voice available by default — Microsoft ‘Anna’, a robotic female US voice. I couldn’t find any easy way to get other voices (without paying for them), though I believe there are more free voices available in 32-bit Windows 7, and in Windows 8 and later.

See also:

[Links last checked May 2016]

One comment

  1. Hi Rhonda

    Two excellent tips in two days! Thank you very much!

    I didn’t know about the ‘Speak’ capability in Word. I will use it! For many years now, when coaching young engineers on how to prepare well-written readable reports, I have advised them to go and find an empty, quiet room, close the door and slowly read their reports out loud to themselves. (The reading out loud is absolutely essential because the brain has to assimilate each word and not just skip through the text). Where they stumble when reading aloud is a place that they should look to edit the words because if their own brain has difficulty immediately comprehending what has been read, so will their readers! I didn’t know that editors use this approach too but it does make perfect sense.

    Again, many thanks



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